Toss Me a Wrench! Or Not…

While browsing the Busboys & Poets bookstore the other night, I came across this book, Bicycle! A Repair & Maintenance Manifesto. IMG_4306The day before, I had just discussed a friend’s bike’s shifting problem, so I thought I’d cruise through it and see if there was anything I could learn. Instead, I found this:  IMG_4305Page after page after page of text. Ugh. Not my type of repair guide or reading! I pointed it out to The Mechanic, who said that the best way to learn how to fix a bike is to take it apart and rebuild it.  Um, well…

I know there are plenty of bikey women who thrive on bike repairs; I follow some of their blogs and have met others in person. But I am not one of them. I know I should know more about bike mechanics, sort of the way I knew, back when I actually drove a car, that I should know more about how the car works. I know all the stories about women being taken advantage of by mechanics because they (the female drivers) don’t know anything about fixing cars/bikes. I have taken a stab on more than one occasion to learn a bit about both fixing a car (Thanks Dad!) and a bike because of this. I feel the same way about my computer – I should know how to fix it so that I am not prisoner to some Geek Squad techie who is heavy-handed with the charges.

Installing my first front basket by myself, with some help from The Mechanic

Installing my first front basket by myself, with some help from The Mechanic

But honestly, the thought of taking apart my bike/car/computer to learn how to fix it is possibly akin to the thought of taking higher math classes – let’s just say, not fun. I would much rather alter and cut a pattern and fiddle with seams and proper zipper fit than spend time taking apart my sewing machine too (although admittedly I know a bit more about the mechanics of a sewing machine simply because I’ve spent so much time using mine, and sewing machines in general). I don’t know many women in my immediate social circle who would eagerly take something apart just to learn how to fix it. I know there are women out there who would, and do, but again, none that I know.

I'm much more interested in this sort of construction!

I’m much more interested in this sort of construction!

But it got me thinking back to the National Women’s Bicycling Forum. Georgena Terry and Natalie Ramsland (of Sweetpea Bicycles), along with other panelists, all mentioned how women are generally less interested in the technical aspects of their bikes and more interested in “Can it get me and my groceries up the hill?”  I have heard this before in relation to computers – women generally don’t want to know the nuts and bolts (as it were), they just want it to work. Most women do not have time to sit and fuss with something, especially if they run a household of kids with a husband who spends all his time tinkering with a computer/car/bicycle. I only have me and The Mechanic and I can’t get everything done! The Mechanic witnesses my temper tantrum last night when trying to install the printer drivers on my new computer. (I confess there may have been some violence towards the poor printer…. What?! It wasn’t working! I don’t care why, I just wanted it to work!)rosie

So… what does all this mean? I’m sure it is one more way to prove (again) that women approach things differently, and that ideally, the market should follow suit.  I’d like to think that bike shops want to attract more women customers into their shops to buy bikes, and that the managers would consider discussing these differences with their staff. On the other hand, you don’t want to stereotype women buyers, because there will be some who want to do their own tinkering. Maybe some shops will figure out how to harness both, and get more women interested in doing their own repair work. It is inspiring and empowering – so, hand me a screwdriver so I can fine tune my derailleur.

3 thoughts on “Toss Me a Wrench! Or Not…

  1. I’m glad to hear from both of you! I agree – there’s no law that says just because I own a bike (or car) I have to work on it. But most of the men in my life are mechanics (some professionally) so I feel there is a bit of pressure there to know my way around a bike or car. I’m interested but not enough, apparently! Thanks for your comments, and for making me feel less guilty! : )

  2. I’ve been riding for 35 years as an adult. I hate bike maintenance. I clean and lube my chain. I change tires. Lately, I have started to change my brake pads, but only because shop mechanics are too sloppy to toe the pads in. (Squeeek!!)
    In a pinch I can break and reconnect a chain but only if I can’t get a ride home. Most other repairs are infrequent.
    I farm out all other repairs to the pros.There is a reason God invented money.

  3. So glad you brought this up. I have no problem pumping tires and fixing a flat when I have to (depending on the tires and rims in question) but I honestly have little desire to work on my bike. And I resent the implication that that’s something every person who rides a bike should do.

    After all, I don’t change the oil in my car or even fix a flat. And we don’t expect that of drivers anymore, do we? For drivers there’s no shame in going to the repair shop or calling roadside assistance. So why would we expect people to work on their own bikes unless they wanted to?

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